First Milk Trains to Manhattan

gdmichaels Apr 4, 2017

  1. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG] Manhattan in the 1850s

    Before cities sprouted up across America, people lived on or near farms and were able to get the produce they wanted rather easily. Horse drawn wagons were used to transport the eggs and dairy locally. However, when travel over long distances was called for, the delivery of unspoiled dairy products became more and more difficult. Case in point: Manhattan.

    Need for Fresh Milk
    In the 1840s, well before the advent of refrigerator train cars, the Erie RR started transporting milk from the dairy farms of Orange County, New York (a fertile dairy region known for its butter) to the city folks of Manhattan. Although Manhattan did have its own milk supply, it was anything but farm fresh. Stabled cows (fed refuse from breweries and distilleries) supplied the city with an impure version of milk that was poor quality compared to milk from grass-fed cows.

    This milk run began in the spring of 1842 but did not include any specialized rail car. Boxcars were loaded with wooden churns filled with milk. This mode of transportation worked well during the cold winter months. However, during the warmer months, the milk would often sour by the time it reached the Manhattan market. Once pre-cooling (ice-filled tin tubes were inserted into the churns in July 1843), this problem was solved.

    Other railroads in the area soon followed suit and began hauling milk to Manhattan. The New York & Harlem was one such railroad, transporting milk from over 100 miles away. In order to make this long of a trip, the Harlem pre-cooled its milk to 40 degrees (transported it to the station covered in wet rags) and ran trains during the night in order to avoid the heat from the sun during the day.

    Fitted with passenger-style trucks, most milk cars were basically baggage cars that lacked any insulation or ice bunkers. Apparently the only way to tell the difference between a milk car and a baggage car was by the interior shelving used to hold the milk cans and by the lettering on the outside of the car.
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    Dairy farmers from Woodland Scenics
     
  2. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Can't argue with your excellent presentation on the early milk trains into The City. But I distinctly remember the Rut-Milk that ran from northern Vermont into New York City every day until about August 1953. The Rutland Railroad gathered milk from local towns throughout the Lake Champlain region of northeastern New York State and northern Vermont all day long every day, and building a nightly train in Rutland, VT late every afternoon seven days a week. The Rut-Milk, as the New York Central called it, left Rutland about dusk every evening heading for Chatham. NY where it was handed off to NYC's Harlem Division. It then ran the 125 miles into The City, arriving somewhere between one or two in the morning. After switching out the loads and picking up the empties from the day before, the Rut-Milk left about four, ahead of all the commuters, and hightailed it back to Rutland arriving about noon, ready that night's run back south. I don't know when all this began, but it was going strong in the 1920's, and probably well before. I was fortunate to see the Rut-Milk roll through the Bennington, VT, Hoosick, NY area on Rutland's Corkscrew Division many times between 1947 and 1953. Always a long train behind one of Rutland's heavy Consolidations. The Central usually assigned a K-11 Pacific because the Harlem was virtually flat all the way, Also Harlem's K-11s were faster than Rut's heavy Consolidations.
     
  3. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for sharing this info. on Rutland milk cars. Much appreciated.
     
  4. DougL

    DougL TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you for the description. It will help with my operations. Part of the layout is dedicated to picking up milk from rural areas and delivering to a city during the 1920s and '30s.

    Other essential milk train operations include a clean-out track at the dairy and icing the empties before taking them out. The supposedly simple "milk run" was actually a complex daily evolution.

    I estimate just the milk train with the occasional local passenger car, grain in boxcars, and less-than-carload movements will keep me busy modeling a day's operations on a short line.
     
  5. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    When I was a kid, a "Milk Run" was the name given to any train that stopped at e-v-e-r-y station along its route, regardless of it carrying milk cars or not. It was always a Milk Run going home from college Friday nights on the last train out. A 45 minute run took an hour and a half to go 40 miles....aaargh.
     
  6. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

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    Wow ! Born in da Bronx, I grew up on Long Island/K4s/C liners on the LIRR. In !963 my parents moved to the west side in Manhattan. The East river sure didn't look like this !! Not even the Brooklyn bridge is there yet in the Pic! No bridges at all yet, nor even Liberty's statue. I wonder when the Hell Gate bridge was in place and that bizarre Triborough bridge we'd drive over here and there ! From our balcony on the 9th floor I could see the NYC S1-4s, SW7s working the docks along the Hudson river at 70th and West End Ave. I believe the high-line was still servicing the NY Times Bldg. about 30 blocks south. The exhaust would waft up from the engines along the dockside along with the other scents along the Hudson, the LaFrance and Queen Mary liners all adding up to a dreamlike atmosphere to a kid of 15 in love with trains, in the BIG city...Lots of GG1s and box cabs in Penn Station and Grand Central Sta. And of course all the 1,001 subway rides I took, sometimes skipping school to go down to South Ferry on the IRT subway line, riding the 5 cent ferry past Liberty and taking a ride on the SIRT on Staten Island to the last stop, Tottenville, also on the water ......
    I'm so grateful I lived in such an exciting city before and even after some college in New England...lived in Los Angeles since '78, now retired from the music business..Back then I could drive right up alongside the hump in Taylor yard below SilverLake. Now entire 18 track yard is gone and forgotten..Modern rail don't do much for me..those hideous looking brake rotors on the AMTRAK cars and double stacks are boring....though I admit I like the MAC 70 type diesels..but not more than a proud NYC Hudson....One great thing today is you can't beat the level of quality and detail in today's models and control systems. I'll bet within 10 years we'll have blowdown steam (via smoke) out the cylinder cocks, [what, a miniature pump/a little tubing/decoder function] .....
    Thanks gdm for the non-digital hand drawn illustration. Alas, who does that anymore !.........M
     

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